How to be happy at school

Your child may not jump for joy at the thought of going to school, but it’s important they are happy when they get there. When a child is happy at school, they are more likely to thrive academically, emotionally and socially.

When school is a negative experience for a child, it can lead to stress, anxiety and in some cases long-term mental health conditions.

Your child’s school should be a place where they develop a love of learning and build strong friendships. Here’s our guide to how to be happy at school and what to do if you’re worried.

What are the signs of unhappiness at school?

Every child is different, and you will know if something isn’t quite right with your child, but here are some common signs to look out for:

  1. Your child is reluctant to go to school, they regularly complain about school or they express a dislike for certain aspects of school.
  2. They complain of physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or nausea.
  3. Their behaviour has changed in some way. For example, their behaviour has declined or seem withdrawn, anxious or irritable.
  4. The standard of their schoolwork has dropped.
  5. They are not interested in extra-curricular activities they usually enjoy.

Why might your child be unhappy?

These are some common reasons for unhappiness at school:

  1. Bullying. If your child is being bullied at school, it can have a significant impact on them. They may feel afraid, isolated and powerless.
  2. Academic challenges. If your child is struggling academically they may feel anxious, frustrated and overwhelmed.
  3. Relationships with other children. If your child feels they don’t fit in with their peers they may feel excluded and rejected. This can lead to low self-esteem and loneliness.
  4. Relationships with teachers. If your child is having a difficult time with a particular teacher or they don’t feel supported or valued by their teachers this will impact their experience at school.
  5. Personal difficulties. Challenges in the home environment, a recent move, illness and other concerns can impact a child’s feelings about school.

What can you do if you’re concerned?

If you are worried about your child, here’s what you can do:

Listen to your child

Your child is the only person who truly knows the reason for their unhappiness.

Choose the right time to talk to your child. Don’t start a conversation when they’re tired or irritable. Find a time when you won’t be interrupted and a place where your child feels comfortable.

Listen to their concerns without judgement and show you understand and care about their feelings.

If your child doesn’t feel like talking, let them know you are there for them when they are ready.

Talk to your child’s school

Talking to your child’s teacher may help you to piece together why your child is unhappy. Together you can put strategies in place to support your child.

Seek professional guidance

Please read our article, Children’s Mental Health Week – where can I turn for help? to find a list of organizations that offer practical support.

How can your child’s school help?

The strategies your school puts in place to support your child depend on the cause of their unhappiness.

Your child’s school might:

  • Offer counselling services.
  • Make accommodations. For example, if your child suffers from anxiety, they may be offered extra time for tests, additional breaks or preferential seating.
  • Provide additional academic support.
  • Provide social and emotional learning programs. Some schools offer programs that support children with emotional regulation and problem solving.
  • Offer peer support. Your child’s school may have a buddy system where older students are paired with younger students to provide support and encouragement.
  • Make referrals to outside agencies. If your child needs specialized support the school may refer them to other professionals or community organizations.

What if your child is being bullied?

The Education Act 2002 places a legal duty on schools to promote children’s welfare. This includes addressing bullying. Bullying is also a child protection issue under the Children Act 1989.

If your child is experiencing bullying let them know they are not alone and that it isn’t their fault. Your child’s school will have an anti-bullying policy to follow, and they must address the issue promptly.

The National Bullying Helpline has published a guide called, Is your child being bullied? which contains clear, practical advice for parents.

How to be happy at school – confidence is key

Here are some activities that can boost your child’s confidence and help them to make friends:

  • Sports and social activities. Participating in sports builds a child’s confidence in their physical abilities as well as developing teamwork and leadership skills.
  • Creative activities. Engaging in creative activities like drawing, painting, music or writing helps a child to express themselves and builds confidence in their talents.
  • Volunteer work. Participating in volunteer work, like helping at cubs or brownies, gives a child a sense of purpose as they help others.
  • Performance. Joining a drama or music group can be a fantastic self-esteem boost.
  • Problem-solving activities. Encouraging a child to engage in problem-solving activities involving construction, puzzles or brain teasers helps them to discover that they can find solutions.

Is your child struggling academically?

When a child finds schoolwork difficult, they may feel embarrassed and attempt to hide their struggles. However, it is important for a child’s self-esteem and academic achievement to identify and address issues quickly.

If you feel your child would benefit from tailored, one-to-one tuition, please contact our experienced and supportive tutors today: